It’s not uncommon for me to remind the leaders at Saddleback that they have my permission to make at least one mistake a week. I tell this to staff members and to lay leaders, explaining periodically that it’s OK to make mistakes — provided they’re not making the same mistakes over and over again each week.
Now, obviously, I don’t want the leaders at Saddleback to fall into sloppy habits, but I do want them to feel free to fail because that means they’ll also feel free to take risks! My point is that, if you’re not making mistakes, then you’re probably not trying anything new. And, if you’re not trying anything new, then you’re not learning, and if you’re not learning, then you and your ministry will quickly be out-of-date, perhaps even irrelevant.
The secret to being innovative is not being afraid to fail. So, let me encourage you to take risks in your ministry. Don’t be afraid to try different methods or to think way out of the box. The great inventor, Thomas Edison, saw mistakes in a positive light, saying they taught you the things that won’t work, freeing you to discover what will succeed. Edison moved on from mistakes and failures, inventing, among many things, the light bulb.
Few great things have ever been accomplished without risk-taking, and we need to teach our leaders, and our members, to take risks in their ministry for Christ. One reason this is so critical to your ministry is that it ties into faith-building. In other words, ‘risk-taking’ is an expression of faith, and a godly ‘risk-taker’ is being faithful in his service to God.
Will we believe God for big things? If the answer is ‘yes,’ then we automatically become godly ‘risk-takers’ — men and women who trust God and live by faith and not by sight. When we teach our people to take risks, we are teaching them to develop faith in God.
One way to teach this concept is to take people to Mark 10:27b (NIV): “… all things are possible with God.” Ask your leaders to circle the word “all,” and to write the letters “NSD” next to that verse. “NSD” means No Small Dreams. We serve a big God, and he says the size of our faith will determine the size of our blessings in life: “According to your faith will it be done to you. …” (Matthew 9:29, NIV)
A great biblical example of faithful risk-taking is in Matthew 25, where Jesus tells the story of three servants who are given a varying amount of talents by their master just before he goes on a long journey. Jesus says one servant was given ten talents, which he went out and doubled; another servant was given five talents, which he also doubled. When the master returned, he told these servants, “Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.” (Matthew 25:23, Msg) In many biblical translations, the master describes these servants as faithful.
But, in the story, the servant who was given one talent proves to be unfaithful, telling his returning master, “… I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best and make no allowances for error. I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent.” (Matthew 25:24b-25, Msg)
Jesus says the master was furious, and he told the servant: “… That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest.” (Matthew 25:26-27, Msg)
The master then said the single talent should be given to the one who risked the most: “And get rid of this ‘play-it-safe’ who won’t go out on a limb. …” (Matthew 25:29, Msg) The point is — when you’re not taking risks with God, you’re being unfaithful.
Pastor, if we’re not taking any risks in our ministries, then we’re really not exercising any faith, and if we’re not exercising any faith, then we’re being faith-less. This week, think about the risks you are taking, or that you should be taking in your ministry.